Project Canterbury

The Presentation of the Faith

by the Reverend Archibald Campbell Knowles
Rector of St. Alban's Church, Olney, Philadelphia, Pa.

Milwaukee: Morehouse
Published for the Catholic Congress of the Episcopal Church.

IT MAY BE WELL to state at the start, that this Congress Booklet was not written as a tract hut as a paper read at one of the Regional Conferences. Consequently it is a little more informal and a little more personal than is usually the case.

The Catholic Religion is the True Faith once for all delivered to the saints. It is not a choice of many religions but is the "sacred deposit" of the Faith, which was given by our Lord, has been handed down from the Apostles and has been held always, everywhere, and by all men loyal and true to the Holy Catholic Church. Therefore it comes not as a matter of opinion but as a matter of authority and so is of obligation to all true believers.

In the presentation of this Faith it is most important that it is the real thing, properly prepared, fittingly served, in order to make its hearers gladly welcome, receive, and hold the Truth, the Divine Revelation of our Blessed Lord.

The True Religion is like a wonderful mosaic, of many hits arranged in a symmetrical design. Leave out some of the pieces and the mosaic picture or figure is absolutely ruined. Omit any part of the Catholic Faith, and the rest appears as an imperfect sadly marred whole. That which is set forth must be the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, and this can only be done in the Authority of the Holy Catholic Church, at once the Preserver of Truth, the Guide in Morals, and the Dispenser of Grace.

And this Faith once for all delivered to the Saints will ever win, when presented in this way. It will win the heart, it will win the mind, it will win the will. It won those of old to die as martyrs; it wins those today to die as martyrs; it won the learned Fathers in that tar historic past and the greatest minds of the middle ages; it wins the most intellectual and thoughtful today; not only a St. Augustine, a St. Thomas Aquinas, a St. Francis of Assisi, or any of that great multitude which none can number, hut scholars, scientists, theologians, and the man in the street alike, for the True Faith has in itself a convincing and constraining power.

Effort and enthusiasm will he unavailing to convince unless there is something given that is satisfying to both the mind and the heart. And this reminds me of the story of a darky preacher, who kept thumping the pulpit and shouting again and again: "Brudders, what we needs is power: what we needs is power," until interrupted by a member of his flock who rose and said: ''What you needs, Mistah Preacher, isn't power, but ideas."

The Attracting Power of the True Religion. There are priests who apparently teach the Catholic religion with fear and trembling. They seem to act as if they thought the presentation of the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church was joy effacing. They never seem to remember that when our Lord taught many a hard saying, while some "walked no more with Him" others "heard Him gladly." When a priest preaches the Faith in such a way as to repel, he had better post on his church door the words of Dante: "All hope dispel ye who enter here." For it is the teacher, not the Faith, that fails to attract and win to this Saving Revelation of God.

So one of the very first requisites is to realize that the Catholic Faith is in itself an attractive force beyond proper estimation. If it is presented as enshrining and setting forth Christ, as it should be, it is a veritable magnet. It is a wonderful revelation, a spiritual stimulant, a mental satisfaction, inherently appealing to all who will listen with an open mind. The greatest mistake is to water it down, to compromise, to trim, to give, as it were, a kind of chocolate covered sweet instead of the real meat and drink of the Gospel as set forth in Creed and Sacrament by the Holy Catholic Church. The following quotation is illuminating regarding Fr. Mackonochie of St. Albans, Holborn, London: "he taught the Catholic Faith at St. Alban's without compromise or hesitation, laying emphasis on Penitence, Redemption, the Sacrament of Penance, and the Mass, and his teaching and practice, instead of alienating the people, attracted them, rich and poor alike. He exercised great power in his preaching. He was not attractive in his style and his voice was poor, but the earnestness of his words drew souls and converted them."

The Priest must teach properly. We have no special teaching order in the Anglican communion, such as Rome has. Consequently every parish priest must be more or less a teacher, an instructor of young and old. And this means that the clergy must be able to think and understand clearly if they are to impart that knowledge in an efficient manner. It may be very interesting for them to dabble in science or philosophy; it may add to their general culture to have a wide acquaintance with the best in literature but it should be remembered, nevertheless, that the chief duty of the clergy is to be learned in the "things of God." They must be well trained in theology. Christian Dogmatic is an antidote to much of the current stuff and nonsense, which St. Paul prophetically spoke of as "profane and vain babbling" and "science falsely so-called." To know the "what, why, and wherefore" of the Christian religion is absolutely necessary to be able to answer, explain, and satisfy today. Even a little mixture of the Bible, a casual acquaintance with St. Augustine, of the Summa of St. Thomas, and of a dozen of the foremost Anglican writers, including, shall we say, Dr. Mortimer and Dr. Hall, would at least make many of our good reverend Fathers give a better presentation of the Faith than some of them now do!

The Church ever a Teaching Church. The Church must ever be a teaching Church. No sermon is ever so interesting as an instructive sermon, a dogmatic sermon. People often say the contrary but they do not know what they mean. If they could properly voice their sentiments we would find that they liked to hear dogma but disliked a "dry as dust" manner of presentation which one should always aim to avoid. Simplicity is often a sign of learning. The real scholar seeks to make his meaning clear, not to be obscurely profound. A teaching Church is like a carpenter driving a nail. Again and again the same Truths have to be set forth before being driven home, even as a carpenter only drives in his nail after many hits.

Nothing so binds a person to the True Religion as knowing what that religion embodies. And a faithful priest, who is constantly teaching what are called well known Truths is doing far more to keep his people in the right path morally as well as doctrinally than one who discourses upon everything under the sun, politics included. It is useless to tell people "to be good," without pointing to the means and methods provided by Christ and the Church.

The Sacramental Life. Another most important counsel in the presentation of the Faith is to accentuate the Sacraments and the Sacramental Life. Too much emphasis cannot be laid on this. Ignorance concerning the Sacraments and the consequent neglect of the Sacramental Life is largely the cause of unbelief and irreligion, so prevalent today. Religious bodies separated from the True Church, having no priesthood, have no real Sacraments, except perhaps Holy Baptism, to offer. Consequently even the most devout members of those bodies are in a measure spiritually starved, although perhaps unaware of this fact.

Yet the Anglican communion, a true part of the Holy Catholic Church, possessing valid Orders and valid Sacraments, with all this great storehouse of sacramental blessings has often sadly neglected to be a real dispenser of Grace. Her members, who should be living a "life hid with Christ in God," through the privileges of Auricular Confession, Holy Communion, and Eucharistic Worship, in many places have never received any proper instruction in these things and have never had nor enjoyed the inestimable blessing of the Sacramental Life.

The nature of the Sacraments must be regularly, frequently, and clearly explained. The value and necessity of their reception must be plainly and authoritatively stressed. The benefit and blessing, the joy and peace, with the marvelous result of this mystical touch of Christ to the soul must be held up as the greatest of all spiritual privileges. Once to understand the Sacraments and their effect, once to recognize the vital powers that lie beneath the outward forms, once to appreciate the mysteries of this Sacramental Life is to make it easy to accept all of the great mysteries of the Faith. The belief in the Blessed Trinity, in the Incarnation, in the Redemption, in the Resurrection, in the Ascension of Christ, and all else that is contained in "the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints" then appeals to mind and heart and soul because of the personal experience with God in the Sacramental Life.

The Sacraments and the Sacramental Life, however, can never be properly apprehended, or appreciated where the Mass is not fitly celebrated, where Matins is the main office of a Sunday and where Eucharistic Worship and Auricular Confession are but mentioned in whispers, with bated breath! Why should there not be in every parish and mission, even the plainest little church of the most Protestant people, a Daily Mass, a Reserved Sacrament, a Mass reverently said in the appointed way and a stated time for hearing Confessions! What right has any individual or group of individuals to object to or to protest such fundamental privileges of the Christian soul! Again let it be plainly emphasized that unbelief, irreligion, and a lack of understanding even the simplest mysteries and verities of the Faith is largely due to the neglect of Sacramental Life. We may well call the Sacraments of Penance and Communion the mystical touch of Jesus, and the Mass the audience chamber of the King of Kings.

The Teaching must be Positive and Authoritative. Again, it is most essential that the teaching he positive. There is too much avoidance of authoritative assertion. We should remember that "moral constraint" is as obligatory to a properly disposed person as any absolute "must" is. We must stress this moral obligation if we would bring to the Sacraments those who assert individual freedom.

For instance, people will not ho brought fasting to Communion by merely being told that it is a devout practice. Nor will they use Penance by being advised that it is a helpful medicine for the soul. Rather must Fasting Communion be taught as absolutely necessary according to canon law and as a reverent way in which to receive the Holy Gifts and Confession and Absolution as Christ's Own appointed means for the proper pardon of the penitent and the only sure way for a Catholic to be in a state of Grace.

When persons sought Christ and asked "What must I do to be saved?" the answer was not a counsel but a command, not a permission hut a direction. This is the spirit in which one should speak, persuasively and convincingly of course, but giving plain, positive directions as to one's duty.

While there is a natural progression in teaching the Truth, "line upon line, precept upon precept," from the very beginning it should be rightly and accurately set forth. You cannot properly raise a child on skimmed milk. You cannot fitly train an athlete by swinging in a hammock. The child of God must be nourished by its Mother the Church on the pure milk of the Gospel and, when weaned, on the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church. The Christian athlete must be trained in the rules and regulations of religion, taught to endure "hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." What does all this mean except that in this progressive teaching each stage is exact, accurate, thorough, with an ever increasing instruction in the things of God. In this, at a very early age, say surely at nine years, the Child of God knows the Faith in principle and regularly fulfills his duties of Confession, Communion, and Mass.

Persuasive Power. A most invaluable help to the Presentation of the Faith is what one may term "persuasive power," on the one hand strong and forceful, on the other logical and convincing. The, teaching should be positive, constructive, affirmative, but it should also be fortified by argument, illustration, and reason. Nor should one omit, incidentally, to touch upon, refute, and demolish possible objections which may be opposed. While the Holy Mysteries of our religion are, of course, not to be proven by logic or argument, they are above reason not opposed to reason. And, today, in the natural world about us, in the possession of the electric current which cannot be seen, for all its marvelous results which are seen, is a simple illustration that may be used effectively in teaching the Mysteries of the Faith. If "brevity is the soul of wit" then "clarity is the soul of wisdom." Speak clearly and use common illustrations.

To use persuasive power, however, means that the priest himself feels the force of the argument he is using. It is astounding to find some of the clergy apparently confused in their own minds! One must clearly comprehend in order clearly to impart. Perhaps "continuation schools" might help some priests and perhaps, even more, some bishops! There was always a good story about Bishop Brooks, to whom Bishop Seymour loaned some learned theological works, who returned them saying that "he did not know what they meant!"

It is most important that Christian Apologetic be given with absolute confidence and assurance. One is naturally impressed when a priest speaks with conviction, for that will be at once persuasion and power.

All may not usually be "silver tongued orators." Some may often lack the magnetic personality that helps. Yet the Inherent Truth of the Catholic religion is such that, properly presented, with real devotion and sincere conviction, it will carry with it that persuasive power that wins souls to the Faith.

The Saving Sense of Humor. Nor must we forget the "saving sense of humor" as a most helpful factor. For all we know to the contrary, it may be embodied in being in "a state of grace." If stories are pegs upon which to hang doctrine, how much more so witty rejoinders and humorous sayings!

Take Fr. Stanton of St. Albans, Holborn, London, of blessed memory! Who can forget the story of his teaching the use of Incense and Candles by saying as a preface, "There are only two kinds of wise people mentioned in the Bible, the Wise Men who offered incense and the wise Virgins who carried lights," or his assertion that "only two smells are named in the Bible, incense and brimstone," or again, his saying to the Bishop of London, who objected to incense, "Your Lordship, it is the best I could get for 2/6 a pound," or still again, when a person objected to the use of the "Hail Mary" he replied, "Don't blame me, blame St. Luke."

Catholic Terminology. Then there is the consideration of terminology. Catholic terminology has an exact meaning. That makes its value. It is not necessary that it always he strictly technical, but it should always be accurate. And sometimes the precise meaning will only be in the association of ideas. For instance, the word "Mass": it may mean little etymologically but what better word could there he! A rose may he as sweet by any other name but nevertheless the word "rose" instantly connotes certain beautiful characteristics of form, color, and fragrance. So the word "Mass": it is the same under any name, but no one word expresses so well the sacrificial aspect and the objective presence as this.

Once an English bishop told a parson whom he was visiting: "I don't like your use of the word A lass in your notices. Why not speak of the Lord's Supper." "Very well, your Lordship, I will change my notice to three Lord's Suppers early and one Sung Lord's Supper late." "Let it be Mass," hurriedly said the Bishop.

It is advisable always for the clergy to use the language of the Church, technical terminology when necessary but otherwise words which accurately express the Church's meaning. Often, however, technical terminology is the simplest. Even little children may be taught to speak most accurately on all doctrines or matters pertaining to the Faith.

Ceremonial. In the presentation of the Faith, ceremonial has an important part to play. Ceremonial without the Faith is an empty shell, but the Faith without ceremonial fails in expression. The two should go hand in hand but the Faith always leading. And of course common sense and a sense of proportion must be a guide. A little country parish with a tiny sanctuary is not the place to stage a Church function!

Yet there are certain principles of ceremonial that should always be observed, partly for their educational value, partly out of reverence for the rite performed. For instance, a priest should knew how to say Mass and follow the Catholic Use throughout. There is no excuse for celebrating in an unintelligent or individualistic fashion. If the priest does not know the proper ceremonial observances let him consult a Catholic brother who can teach him. And he should remember that what he does at the altar is beyond the province of his parishioners. It does not matter whether they like or dislike. "It is the Mass that matters" and it should be said or sung according to Catholic use. And where a priest takes a congregation "into his confidence" and explains the Mass as a Sacrifice and a Sacrament and the age-long traditional way of celebrating the Mass, he will generally win wholehearted approval.

Then as to other ceremonial, everything that is done should be done properly, as the Church does it: the vesting of altar, priest, or acolytes; the use of incense; candles, etc., the various appointments. This is the sign of a Catholic parish! Alas! Like Heinz's pickles one can count almost 57 varieties of individualistic ceremonies among our reverend brethren. Yet they can easily learn the right way!

No parish will be or become really Catholic unless the Mass is the chief service of Sunday. "It is the Mass that matters." And the following of correct and reverent ceremonial at the Mass will be an object lesson beyond value--teaching the real Objective Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and the sacrificial character of that Divine Offering.

Never Court Popularity or Forget the Office. One of the Devil's special temptations to a priest is to try and make him seek popularity. A truly consecrated man should have none of this. The clergy are human or should be! They naturally desire to be liked, even loved, but they should never make it an aim or object. They should teach without fear or favor. They should treat all of their people alike, with a fatherly regard and a personal interest. They should never forget their office or conduct themselves in a way unbecoming a priest. We all know of some who think to take with the laity by being "slangy" and "gossipy," wearing lay clothes and scarlet neckties, and sometimes, to quote Shakespeare, "full of strange oaths," and "bearded like a bard," and laughed at behind their backs by the laity they wished to impress! The people rightly expect a higher type!

Perhaps these words of Shakespeare may not be without application:

"Act well your part, there all the honour lies,
Stoop to expediency and honour dies.
Many there are that in the race for fame
Lose the great cause to win the lesser game,
Who, pandering to the town's decadent taste,
Barter the precious pearls for gaudy paste,
And leave upon the virgin page of time
The venomed trail of iridescent slime."

If the warning fits the layman, surely it has counsel also for the priest!

We may help or hinder the Faith by our life, character, and conduct. Let us simply all remember our high office and, while thoroughly human and natural, never forget that a priest is always a priest and even in play and on vacation is still on duty.

Claiming Our Heritage. The real Catholic of the Anglican communion should recognize the right to the whole heritage of the Church. If we are a true part of the True Church, as we know we are, then all of the blessings and privileges of the whole Church are ours. We are not borrowing from Rome, we are only claiming our own. For instance, St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Francis of Assisi, or even that old dear, especially beloved in "Ould Oireland," the great and glorious St. Patrick, are our Saints because they are Saints of the Holy Catholic Church and the Holy Catholic Church is our Church.

An Anglican is not a sort of free lance "all dressed up and nowhere to go," or a kind of Maori, ready to run amuck, although sometimes he seems a little of each, but he is a Catholic, with all that is inherent in the name and possessed of all the things that go with it. We may say our Rosary, make our Stations, burn our Votive Candles, go to Benediction: they are all our right and we must not let a Romanist say us nay, or an Anglican object to helpful services and practices.

A Real Rector. A rector should be the head of his parish. He is to rule and guide it wisely and well. No vestry has a right to tell him what to do. Their function is the care of temporal things, not of spiritual matters. The parish priest is by right the sole director. His duty is not to give the people what they think they want but to make them want what he thinks proper to give. If the vestry and people once realize that they cannot dictate, the battle is won.

The trouble with many a cleric is not that he lacks the Grace of God, but that he lacks backbone. He has an inferiority complex. I know of a rector upon whom a raging vestryman called, saying he would leave the parish if that priest persisted in his practice. This rector simply got his record book and with a smile said: "Let's fix it now: I will give you a canonical transfer, what parish shall it be?" Sequel: a sobered, chastened, and meek vestryman! Another rector, a fighter, in my time, won as a most loyal adherent a man who had opposed everything, by making him his rector's warden. 1 know of a rector who won a three branch family of Low Churchmen and Sectarians, by making a little girl of one household a flower girl in a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. As St. Francis de Sales once said: "We catch more flies by sweetness than by vinegar." Patience, perseverance, persuasion, power, and, above all, Christian charity and a godly life--where will these not win out and make a congregation Catholic, when united with earnest prayer, sympathetic kindness, and the, love of souls?

In conclusion, we Anglicans have a glorious heritage and a solemn responsibility. The Catholic Faith is ours. Let us then properly present it, clearly, accurately, dogmatically, with sincere conviction and persuasive power, doing our very best to win souls to accept and appreciate their precious privilege and leaving the rest to Almighty God.

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